<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe each region of the vertebral column and the number of bones in each region
  • Discuss the curves of the vertebral column and how these change after birth
  • Describe a typical vertebra and determine the distinguishing characteristics for vertebrae in each vertebral region and features of the sacrum and the coccyx
  • Define the structure of an intervertebral disc
  • Determine the location of the ligaments that provide support for the vertebral column

The vertebral column is also known as the spinal column or spine ( [link] ). It consists of a sequence of vertebrae (singular = vertebra), each of which is separated and united by an intervertebral disc    . Together, the vertebrae and intervertebral discs form the vertebral column. It is a flexible column that supports the head, neck, and body and allows for their movements. It also protects the spinal cord, which passes down the back through openings in the vertebrae.

Vertebral column

This image shows the structure of the vertebral column. The left panel shows the front view of the vertebral column and the right panel shows the side view of the vertebral column.
The adult vertebral column consists of 24 vertebrae, plus the sacrum and coccyx. The vertebrae are divided into three regions: cervical C1–C7 vertebrae, thoracic T1–T12 vertebrae, and lumbar L1–L5 vertebrae. The vertebral column is curved, with two primary curvatures (thoracic and sacrococcygeal curves) and two secondary curvatures (cervical and lumbar curves).

Regions of the vertebral column

The vertebral column originally develops as a series of 33 vertebrae, but this number is eventually reduced to 24 vertebrae, plus the sacrum and coccyx. The vertebral column is subdivided into five regions, with the vertebrae in each area named for that region and numbered in descending order. In the neck, there are seven cervical vertebrae, each designated with the letter “C” followed by its number. Superiorly, the C1 vertebra articulates (forms a joint) with the occipital condyles of the skull. Inferiorly, C1 articulates with the C2 vertebra, and so on. Below these are the 12 thoracic vertebrae, designated T1–T12. The lower back contains the L1–L5 lumbar vertebrae. The single sacrum, which is also part of the pelvis, is formed by the fusion of five sacral vertebrae. Similarly, the coccyx, or tailbone, results from the fusion of four small coccygeal vertebrae. However, the sacral and coccygeal fusions do not start until age 20 and are not completed until middle age.

An interesting anatomical fact is that almost all mammals have seven cervical vertebrae, regardless of body size. This means that there are large variations in the size of cervical vertebrae, ranging from the very small cervical vertebrae of a shrew to the greatly elongated vertebrae in the neck of a giraffe. In a full-grown giraffe, each cervical vertebra is 11 inches tall.

Curvatures of the vertebral column

The adult vertebral column does not form a straight line, but instead has four curvatures along its length (see [link] ). These curves increase the vertebral column’s strength, flexibility, and ability to absorb shock. When the load on the spine is increased, by carrying a heavy backpack for example, the curvatures increase in depth (become more curved) to accommodate the extra weight. They then spring back when the weight is removed. The four adult curvatures are classified as either primary or secondary curvatures. Primary curves are retained from the original fetal curvature, while secondary curvatures develop after birth.

Questions & Answers

thank you sooo much bro
Fatima Reply
Fatima hw a u
any one elaborate fr me foramens of the skull and features which they transmit
icant undrestand plz
zahruuzh Reply
try to read I hop you will understand
state and explain 20 radiology uses
what are chemicals in anatomy and physiology?
Mike Reply
what can I do to find it easy for me in anatomy and physiology course
study up on the basics of the periodic chart, learn bones and muscles attachments, and learn muscles. Those take the longest to memorize. After that it should be a little easier.
what are the two types of body cells
Jennifer Reply
what is malnutrition
malnutrition refers to faulty nutrition resulting from malabsorption,poor diet or overeating. Sometimes too these food do not contain all the six food nutrients in their right proportion.
thank you
Will u be malnourished?
What's the difference between radiology and radiology
Nothing! Radiology it means the study or using of radiation in medical science it can be 1.diagnose or treatment diagnosed radiology! x- ray. ultrasound. ct-scan. mammogram. MRI. 2. treatmen- radiation oncology, like Cobalt 60. and nuclear medicine
what is X-ray?
X-ray is type of light that make it possible to see inside any object. as human body
How the nervous system develops
ayiesher Reply
From the cells at the back of an embryo
breifly explain anatomy of thorax
Hadiza Reply
How many region the rib is divided
how many bon of human being
how to study for the skeletal system
and anatomy
I really need sources immediately
I printed out all the different bones. Put them in the see through protective sheaths and got dry erase markers. I could right on them and erase to help me learn to spell the names of markings and bones.
Or go to a book store, Barnes and Noble(doesn't have to be this) and they have coloring books for anatomy. $16. Really helpful.
okay thanks and are what study tools you use to study the materials and get a better understanding
*what are
I prefer diagrams, pictures that lay out each step with the information in each step. For Example: how action potential creates muscles to move. A pictured diagram gives me a better understanding of how each piece plays a role in each step of the process.
Also for basics, such as memorizing vocab. Flash cards are great. Don't become discouraged if you don't get them all right the first times through. The more you go through them, your brain will remember pieces of information from each and help you to pull out the information 😉
okay thanks
what is the functions of the lips in human
Momboi Reply
could I say sensation?
for protection
Lips assist in speech and eating
Too many easy questions. Which bones are the axial and appendicular? What are the abbreviations for TEE, TTE, AED, A-Mode, B-Mode, and LTH? What is the difference between hypothalamus and thalamus? Where is the parathyroid located? How many True Ribs do we have?
Sovilace Reply
Transesophageal echocardiography Transthoracic Echocardiography automated external defibrillator brightnees mode Los Hermanos Taverna
what is anatomy
okello Reply
anatomy is scientific study of body structures and how they relate to each other
Are there other functions of the nucleolus apart from synthesis of RNA and formation of ribosomes
Peninah Reply
plays a role in cell response to stress
what is angle of auscultation
Bryan Reply
Anatomy which is the study of the human body structure has a couple of reasons it is been studied It helps to discover genetic disease cytology And histology which is the study of tissues Physiology is the study of function of the human cells It helps to know how the different body part works Its helps to know how part of the brain works And lastly It gives the essential to understand more about anatomy
Stephen Reply
describe the external features of a spinal cord
okoche Reply
Spinal nerves emerge in pairs, one from each side of the spinal cord along its length. The cervical nerves form a plexus (a complex interwoven network of nerves—nerves converge and branch). The cervical enlargement is a widening in the upper part of the spinal cord (C 4–T 1). Nerves that extend in
Hormones regulate certain target cell responses. These can include which of the following?
Nazareth Reply
describe the external features of spinal cord

Get the best Anatomy & Physiology course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Anatomy & Physiology' conversation and receive update notifications?